Archive for the ‘Moe Prager’ Category

I’m a Reed Farrel Coleman mystery fan, especially the Moe Prager WhereItHurtsseries. So I was saddened when that series came to a sad but honest end. But Coleman has followed it up with a new protagonist, different but equally as good, Gus Murphy. While Moe was based in Brooklyn, Gus is based in Suffolk County, Long Island, much closer to my home and much more familiar, which always makes for fun reading.

Gus is ex-Suffolk County police. It’s been two years since his son suddenly died and Gus’ life has been a disaster. He dealt with bouts of depression. His marriage collapsed. His daughter, Kristy, once a ‘good girl’, has been acting up. He lives in the low class hotel for which he drives the van to and from the Long Island Railroad Station. Things really couldn’t get much more depressing.

When, an ex-con, Tommy Delcamino, who Murphy arrested several times, approaches him to find the killers of his lowlife, druggie son, TJ, because the police haven’t followed up on any leads, Murphy thinks he’s playing the ‘dead son’ card and tells him to fuck off. However, after ruminating over it and discussing it with his therapist, he realizes Delcamino had no one else to turn to. So, he decides to apologize to Delcamino for his insensitivity. However, arriving at his trailer, Murphy finds it tossed and Delcamino brutally murdered. So, of course, Murphy has no option but to pursue both Tommy and TJ’s murder. Being warned off by both policemen and drug dealers alike only reinforces Murphy’s resolve.

Murphy is a real person in the sense that he goes through a range of emotions. He’s lost his faith in God. He’s been wallowing in self pity for the past two years. And when his investigation seems to give him renewed life, he doesn’t understand it and finds it hard to swallow.

I particularly like Murphy’s cynicism regarding God and religion, the various inequities on Long Island, police corruption and life in general. His descriptions of various Long Island neighborhoods, the rich ones and the poor ones, is spot on, cynicism included. The ancillary characters are a mixed bunch, from honest to corrupt police, savage drug dealers, and folks down on their luck. All of this makes for good reading. I’m trying to think of who to compare Gus Murphy to, but can’t come up with anyone.

After reading the Moe Prager series, I read all of Coleman’s other series, which is probably something you should do. It won’t take long to read, but the enjoyment should keep going for a long time.

According to Coleman’s website, this is Book 1 of the Gus Murphy series. That’s good to know. It gives me something to look forward to.

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Here are my 5-star favorite mysteries of 2014.

LongWayHomeThe Long Way Home by Louise Penny – Armand Gamache, former chief inspector of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec, is settling into retirement in the idyllic village of Three Pines—but Gamache understands better than most that danger never strays far from home. With the help of friends and chocolate croissants and the protection of the village’s massive pines, Gamache is healing. You might just mistake him and his wife, Reine-Marie, for an ordinary middle-age couple oblivious to the world’s horrors. But Gamache still grapples with a “sin-sick soul”—he can’t forget what lurks just beyond his shelter of trees. It’s his good friend Clara Morrow who breaks his fragile state of peace when she asks for help: Peter, Clara’s husband, is missing. After a year of separation, Peter was scheduled to return home; Clara needs to know why he didn’t.

DarknessDarknessDarkness., Darkness by John Harvey – Diamond Dagger Award–winner Harvey’s 12th and last Charlie Resnick novel. The destruction of an old apartment terrace in the Nottinghamshire village of Bledwell Vale, in England’s coal-mining country, reveals a human skeleton. Dental records identify the remains as those of Jenny Hardwick, missing since 1984. An outspoken advocate for the miners, Jenny was the wife of a scab, one of the men who crossed the picket lines to keep providing for their families. Det. Insp. Catherine Njoroge takes charge of the investigation, and recruits Res­nick who has been working as civilian investigator on cold cases, since he has first-hand experience of the divisive, violent miner’s strike of the mid-1980s.

CopTownCop Town by Karin Slaughter – Gender politics and race relations are front and center in this thriller. It’s 1974 Atlanta, and another policeman has been shot by the man they’re calling the Shooter, yet his partner, Jimmy Lawson, is left physically unharmed but devastated. Jimmy’s sister Maggie, also a cop, is convinced that something is off about Jimmy’s version of events, but getting anyone to listen to her suspicions would only prove futile. After all, women weren’t very welcome on the police force in 1974 and they certainly didn’t investigate serious crimes. When she’s partnered with Kate Murphy, whose pampered background couldn’t be more different from Maggie’s solid blue-collar roots, events begin to escalate, and Kate and Maggie must put everything on the line to stop a ferocious killer.

ProofPositiveProof Positive by Archer Mayor – When Beverly Hillstrom, Vermont’s chief medical examiner and girlfriend of Vermont Bureau of Investigation detective Joe Gunther, asks him to look into the death of her cousin, Ben, how can he refuse? Ben, a Vietnam War Signal Corps photographer and a hoarder, was found crushed to death under a pile from his collection. The cause of death was inconclusive, according to Beverly’s autopsy. When Ben’s estranged ex-wife is found tortured and murdered soon after, Joe’s senses are on high alert.

InvisibleCityInvisible City by Julia Dahl – Rebekah Roberts moved to New York City in the hope of covering important stories as a journalist, but she also wanted to be closer to the mother who abandoned her shortly after she was born to return to her Hasidic Jewish community. When Rebekah is tasked with reporting on the murder of a Hasidic woman, she begins to learn more about the community and how in some respects it exists as a sovereign state within the city. And the NYPD is happy to oblige the community’s customs, including not performing an autopsy on the victim, which might result in the murder remaining unsolved.

ProvidenceRagProvidence Rag by Bruce DeSilva – Inspired by a true story, Providence Rag finds Liam Mulligan, his pal Mason, and the newspaper they both work for at an ethical crossroad. The youngest serial killer in history butchered five of his neighbors before he was old enough to drive. When he was caught eighteen years ago, Rhode Island’s antiquated criminal statutes—never intended for someone like him—required that all juveniles, no matter their crimes, be released at age twenty-one. The killer is still behind bars, serving time for crimes supposedly committed on the inside. That these charges were fabricated is an open secret; but nearly everyone is fine with it—if the monster ever gets out more people will surely die. But Mason is not fine with it. If officials can get away with framing this killer they could do it to anybody

HollowGirlHollow Girl by Reed Farrel Coleman – In this ninth and final Moe Prager outing, Prager is still grieving the death of his fiancée, who was killed in a car accident for which he feels responsible. He’s awakened by his brother from a drunken sleep; Nancy Lustig, a woman he met 35 years earlier, wants to hire Moe to find her missing 30-year-old daughter, Sloane, who enjoyed brief notoriety a decade earlier as Internet sensation “Hollow Girl,” airing “real life performance art.” Although their relationship has always been tortured, mother and daughter spoke biweekly. Sloane has not called in a month, and when new, more graphically sadistic videos starring a seemingly comatose Sloane start appearing online, Moe gets that uneasy feeling in his “kishka” that something is amiss.

I’ve read a lot of good books this past year. I hope one of them appeals to you.


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By now I’m sure you know that I like Reed Farrel Coleman as a mystery writer. His standalones as well as his series, HollowGirlDylan Klein and Moe Prager are well written, action packed and fun reading. So, it is with both joy and sadness that I read Hollow Girl, Coleman’s latest. It is a great read, but also the last in the Prager series.

Moe’s fiancee, Pam, was killed in a freak auto accident a month earlier and Moe has been drunk ever since. He’s awakened one morning by his brother, Aaron. Nancy Lustig, a women Moe met on a case 35 years earlier wants to meet. Moe reluctantly agrees. It seems Nancy’s daughter, Sloane (aka Siobhan) has been missing. While she’s been out of touch for several weeks at a time previously, this is the longest period of silence. The mother and daughter seem to have a love-hate relationship and Sloane seems to live to torture her mother.

Sloane had passing notoriety a decade earlier as the Hollow Girl, an internet sensation performing ‘real life’ performance art, which included an fictional suicide. As Moe pursues the case, he uncovers Sloane’s sordid life. He also begins a relationship with Nancy that, kept silent all these decades, was simmering in both of them.

I really enjoyed Hollow Girl. And why not!!! He mentions two of my favorite things: Katz’ Deli in lower Manhattan and the Allman Brothers. Moe Prager is the guy next door. He suffers the same things we all do: loss of friends, cancer, failed relationships. And he waxes philosophical about all of these things. He has hunches that sometimes work out and sometimes don’t. The Prager books have a lot of action, countered by Moe’s reminiscing. They explore how people feel. They are well written, as well.

Reed Farrel Coleman packs a lot into his books about life and love. It’s not just the mystery that captures you, it’s the people.  I will admit that there was one of his books I didn’t like at all…Gun Church. I couldn’t even finish it, so I’d suggest you skip it. But, other than that, I’d read all of his other books.

I’m sure there’s something new on the Coleman horizon that will thrill fans. I can’t wait to find out what it is. In the meantime, enjoy Hollow Girl.

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OnionStreetIf you’re a Moe Prager fan, you’ll know that in the last book he found out he has cancer. In his latest, Onion Street, his daughter, concerned about him, is visiting and asks why he became a cop. That’s the end of the present day. He then begins a long story leading up to his applying to the police academy. The story includes bombs, drug smuggling, beatings, drives through Brooklyn and more.

Reed Farrel Coleman’s books are always a good read and this is no exception, once you get past the implausibility of the situations Moe, as a college student, gets into and the actions that he takes. No college student I know or knew back in the day would do any of the things he did, let alone all of the things he did.  But then again, I grew up in Queens, which although geographically close, psychologically is a long way from Brooklyn. Maybe they did things differently there.

Anyway, as I said, once you get past this, it’s a fun read. Coleman brings up locales and TV shows from the period. Some of them are vivid. Any of you who routinely took the Belt Parkway past the garbage dumps can, even now, visualize and actually smell the noxious fumes. The rumble of the elevated trains never leaves you. The book brought back memories of me and my grandparents walking in Brighton Beach, getting Mrs. Stahl’s knishes, the shadow of the El darkening the street.

So, now that I think about it, Onion Street was more a walk down memory lane for me than a believable mystery. But, so what! I really enjoyed it. That’s what counts.

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In seven books, Reed Farrel Coleman has taken Moe Prager from the 1970s to present day, aging him from his 20s to his 60s. Many authors having taken many more books to age their protagonists less. Yet, this series is still cohesive and readers don’t feel like they’ve missed anything.

Hurt Machine takes place two years after Innocent Monster. It begins with Moe emerging from his oncologist’s office. The news is not good. He’s outside a restaurant where a local reception dinner is being held for his daughter’s upcoming wedding, several weeks away in Vermont, when he sees his estranged ex-wife/ex-PI partner, Carmella. Her sister, Alta, has been murdered and she pleads for his help in finding the killer. She assumes it relates to an incident in which Alta and her on the job partner, Maya, EMTs, refused to help a restaurant patron who was having a heart attack.

Of course there’s more underlying the brutal murder and maybe more astute readers would see the ending earlier in the book than I did, but I didn’t see it coming. There are enough twists and turns and misdirections to delight even the most stubborn mystery reader.

But it’s Moe that steals the show. Always philosophical, he’s even more so as he contemplates illness and possible death, the shortness of life. This book is all Moe. Our favorite characters make fleeting if any appearances: Israel Roth, Sarah, Carmella (maybe because many of them have died and not been replaced by new favorites). However, Coleman has brought in an intriguing new character, Detective Fugua (a new series in the making if I were Reed Farrel Coleman….hint, hint, Reed!).

Coleman has said that he’s working on a prequel and possibly a ninth book. While there are certain detectives whose authors should send them out while they’re on top (Mr. Connelly, it’s time to retire Harry Bosch and Robert Parker should have retired Spenser years ago, really), I personally am not ready to see Moe Prager drift off into the sunset.

So, as I’ve said before…treat yourself. Start with Walking the Perfect Square and read the series through to Hurt Machine. You too will have a new favorite gumshoe.

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“Mary White smelled of sweet perfume and mixed feelings when she greeted me at the door of her house,” Moe Prager says upon meeting up with an old acquaintance. “Kites bathed in dying orange light flirted with the Verrazano Bridge and dreamed of untethered flight,” he thinks as he drives along the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn as the sun is setting.

I’m making my way through the Moe Prager mysteries by Reed Farrel Coleman (I just finished Empty Ever After) because his latest one, Hurt Machine, just recently published, got great reviews. One more to go! Yes! And while I wouldn’t say the series falls into the “Literary” genre, they are literary, as evidenced by the snippets above. Coleman, in the form of Moe Prager, is practical, philosophical, literary and literate.

Prager’s also human. I have a lot of favorite mystery characters: Harry Bosch by Connelly, Kinsey Milhone by Grafton, Joe Gunther by Mayer, Jackson Brody by Atkinson, Mike Daley by Silverstein and, more recently, Claire DeWitt by Gran.  (By the way, if you haven’t read Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, you must. That’s an order.) However, the only one I can visualize as a next door neighbor is Moe Prager.

There’s a 15 year gap in Moe Prager’s life between the previous installment and Empty Ever After. (In a recent interview Coleman said, unlike Sue Grafton’s protagonist, he, Coleman, must age his characters in order to keep it interesting.)  Empty Ever After incorporates the cases of the previous books, making it both a benefit and a hindrance.  If you’re familiar with the cases/books, you may or may not want to rehash parts of them again.  On the other hand, it all fits together nicely. If you’re not familiar with the previous books, you may get a tad lost, but Coleman does a good job of acquainting you with the salient points.

For purposes of this blog post, the plot is too involved to summarize without the backstory. Suffice it to say, Coleman makes it work. For a quick, enjoyable read, Moe Prager is a #1 recommendation.

Coleman also said that he plans two more Prager books, a prequel and another book. You know I’ll be waiting impatiently for these to be written.

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Whenever we go to a new city, we always seek out the independent bookstores.  I especially look for the mystery bookstores and have come to ask the same question of each one:  what are some must read mysteries?  Thanks to the great saleman at Mystery on Main Street in Brattleboro, VT, I have now become a Moe Prager fan, whose mysteries are written by Reed Farrel Coleman (who looks like a private eye).  When I read that Coleman is coming out with a new book, I knew I had to catch up with the 5 or 6 books in the series (I’d only read two.)

There are some mysteries that are action packed and some that are riveting courtroom dramas.  But there are few where you get to know the characters, where there is a life outside of crime.  Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct series is one that comes to mind and Moe Prager is another.  Moe is an everyday guy.  He lives in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.  He was disabled while on the NYPD force due to a freak accident and was retired.  He owns a wine store with his brother Aaron and keeps his private detective license in case a case comes up.  His claim to fame was finding a missing girl when no one else could and this keeps haunting him because missing person cases seem to keep coming his way.

In The James Deans, when Moe and his wife, Katy, are invited to the posh wedding of a former wine store employee, he wonders why.  He soon finds out.  Her well heeled father, Thomas Geary, wants Prager to find out what happened to Moira Heaton, an intern in State Senator Steve Brightman’s office.  She left one day about a year ago and never returned.  All eyes turn to Brightman.  Of course a detective agency was hired, with no results.  So Geary turns to Prager to clear Brightman’s name so he can resume his meteoric rise in politics.  Prager finds out what happens to Moira and more.

Moe Prager is a truly likeable guy.  He’s smart, philosophical, realistic and caring.  Coleman’s writing is readable, enjoyable  and unpretentious.  His plots are realistic.  There are some slimeballs, some nice guys and some characters to be pitied in Moe Prager’s life.

While you don’t have to read the series in order, I’d do it since there aren’t too many books to catch up on and they’re fast reads.  I’d probably pick up a nice bottle of wine to get in the mood, kick back and relax.   Let me know what you think.

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